As we enter the seventh year of Tory budget cuts that Scotland did not vote for, we can expect a repetition of the same record of failure that we have seen year after year from this Chancellor. George Osborne’s claim that the Tories represent economic credibility now lies in tatters with the UK government failing on key economic indicators and missing its own targets time after time.
This Budget, like many before it, will confirm that George Osborne has failed to tackle debt, the deficit and borrowing as he promised, and he will now be forced to admit that he has failed on his trade and exports figures as well.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies, the ratings agency Moody’s and others are all sounding the alarm bells at the Chancellor’s optimistic predictions for the economy, and the Chancellor is destined to fail when it comes to the “Fiscal Charter” – his own target for getting rid of the deficit and reaching a budget surplus by 2020.
This is a Chancellor who remains stubbornly wedded to his failed austerity project – continuing to cut tens of billions more than is necessary to run a balanced budget – despite all the damage that it has done to the economy, our public services and the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Both the IMF and the OECD have said that the Chancellor has scope to invest – and the SNP agrees that it is time he did just that.
The SNP wants to see an alternative that prioritises investment, exports, productivity and innovation. Such an approach seeks to support our key industries such as manufacturing and the Oil and Gas sector. This alternative seeks to manage our economy in the interests of all, not just the few.
Rather than surrendering to the Tories’ definition of economic prudence, the SNP will advocate for a more balanced approach which would return the public finances to a sustainable path whilst continuing to invest in our vital public services. By introducing a small increase in spending on public services by 0.5 per cent a year in real terms between 2016-17 and 2019-20, we would release over £150 billion during this period for investment in public services – while ensuring that public sector debt and borrowing fall over the current Parliament
Of course, there will be no opposition from the Labour Party, who initially signed up to enthusiastically support George Osborne’s Austerity Charter. Labour later decided to oppose the measures but 20 of their leading MPs broke ranks and voted in favour of the Charter. The Labour Party has continually abdicated its responsibility as the opposition to the UK government and has failed to offer an alternative vision to the Tories’ austerity agenda.
From the SNP benches in the House of Commons, where the real opposition sits, we will hold the Chancellor, the Tories and their government to account. We will offer an alternative vision – an economic plan based around investment in education; internationalisation; innovation; and inclusive growth, and it is this progressive approach that will release Scotland’s true economic potential.
Stewart Hosie MP is SNP Depute Leader and the SNP’s Economy Spokesperson in Westminster